Idaho Steelheads aim to clinch first-round series tonight

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comApril 28, 2014 

  • STEELHEADS VS. EAGLES

    Game 1: Idaho 2, Colorado 1

    Game 2: Colorado 3, Idaho 1

    Game 3: Colorado 4, Idaho 1

    Game 4: Idaho 4, Colorado 3

    Game 5: Idaho 2, Colorado 1

    Game 6: at Idaho, 7:10 p.m.

    *Game 7: at Idaho, 7:10 p.m.

    * If necessary. Home games on 1350 AM and Cable One 17.

— The Idaho Steelheads pushed to earn home-ice advantage in the first round of the ECHL Kelly Cup Western Conference playoffs.

Now Idaho hopes it doesn't need home ice for Tuesday's decisive Game 7.

The Steelheads would much rather finish off Colorado in Monday night's Game 6 at CenturyLink Arena in Boise. Idaho, which leads the best-of-seven series 3-2, won Games 4 and 5 in Colorado.

"It's good to get home. It's a long, grinding series, so it's good to get home and get in your own bed and kind of get the comforts of home," coach Brad Ralph said. "Hopefully we won't let our foot off the pedal and we follow through and get it done."

It is likely to take another team effort.

The Steelheads have used 21 of the 23 players on their roster in the first five games of the series. Only forward Anthony Nigro and defenseman Ryan Button, who opened the series on the team's reserve list, have yet to appear.

Twelve players have scored in five games, and both goaltenders - Josh Robinson and Pat Nagle - have picked up victories in the series.

"It's not one of two guys that are getting it done for us. It's everyone," said defenseman Charlie Dodero, who has two assists.

Injuries have left Ralph shuffling his offensive lines and defensive pairings throughout the series. Leading goal scorer Tommy Grant left Game 1 in the first period with an apparent hand injury and has not returned.

Rookie defenseman Scott Czarnowczan took a few shifts on offense. When Czarnowczan and fellow defenseman Eamonn McDermott missed ice time in Game 5, forward Gaelen Patterson shifted to defense. It was Patterson who scored the game-winner in Friday's 2-1 Game 5 victory.

"A lot of guys are playing injured. It's a testament to what we've done that we've sucked it up and we've found a way," Ralph said. "It's kind of a time when the team comes together. Everyone on the bench realizes, 'Holy.' We've got guys down and that's when things tighten up. It's not always as bad as it sounds."

McDermott blocked a shot with his face, leading to several chipped teeth and stitches in his lip.

"Stuff like that, that's what keep the boys fired up," Dodero said. "When you see something like that, you want to do something yourself to help the team win."

That's the kind of effort Ralph has been asking for, particularly since the Steelheads played two unimpressive games at CenturyLink Arena to open the series.

"Our guys started to get the urgency of the situation and kind of played that way," Ralph said.

Ralph made one tactical change, inserting 6-foot-2, 215-pound forward Brock Montgomery into the lineup for Game 3 to help contend with Colorado's physical play. Montgomery, who started the series on the reserve list, scored what turned out to be the game-winner in Idaho's 4-3 Game 4 victory.

"Putting Brock Montgomery in made a big difference in terms of the physicality and the size of our lineup up front," Ralph said.

Every small edge helps.

With a trip to the Western Conference semifinals on the line, the Steelheads are looking for a few more to push them past Colorado in a series that's already featured three one-goal games.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444; Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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